Karina Villeda is a mother, student, and future lawyer. Karina grew up surrounded by diversity, and saw her community interacting with the law in many ways. This inspired her to want to go to school and eventually, become a lawyer to help her community. As a student at Inver Hills Community College, she is working toward her degree in political science. She plans to transfer to the University of Minnesota in the fall of 2023 to finish out her Bachelor’s degree and study for the LSAT.
After high school, Karina worked for several years and had a daughter. When Covid-19 struck, she lost her job and decided it was time to get her degree. She always knew she wanted to attend college, and decided to start out at Inver Hills because it was more affordable than a four-year institution. Still, affording college has not always been easy.
Because Karina is a first generation college student, she had trouble navigating the FAFSA process and nearly missed the deadline. Fortunately, she has received some scholarships and grants, but they don’t cover all her expenses. Karina has taken out multiple loans to help her pay for insurance, her car, rent, and other living expenses - and has even taken out loans to pay off her credit card debt. The high cost of college has made it challenging at times for Karina to stay enrolled, and even working 32 hours per week, she would often be left with only $200 in her account at the end of the month for groceries, textbooks, and other needs.
At times, Karina has visited the local food pantry to supplement her groceries. While she is grateful for the service, she recognizes that the options at the pantry are limited, inaccessible, and not always healthy.
“What’s challenging is when you go to these food shelves and you have to wait in line for two hours. Then when you get the food, it's just kind of garbage, and it's not nutritional or enjoyable. Food is something that is supposed to bring enjoyment, not just something you eat to survive. So I find myself really struggling with food.”
With a free college grant program like the one outlined in the Minnesota House Omnibus Education bill, students like Karina wouldn’t have to face food and housing insecurity, or take out thousands in loans just to afford staying in school.
For now, Karina will stay enrolled in her program at Inver Hills and is on track to graduate, despite the barriers she faces. She works part time as a stock broker’s assistant, and is looking to take on internships in the political science and law field in the future.